Expert Real Estate Insight: Rebecca Barton
Industry vet Rebecca Barton has 10 years experience in the real estate business, helping buyers and sellers in both New Castle County, Del., and Delaware and Chester counties in Pennsylvania. We had the chance to talk with her about the markets in those areas and tips for buying and selling homes.
How is the market right now?
We’re running into a significant shortage of inventory in New Castle County right now—it seemed to happen almost overnight. Although we feel the market began to recover in April of 2012. Right now, per the MLS, we only have a 4.8 months supply, meaning that if nothing else came on the market, we’d be out of inventory in five months. What that means to sellers is a slight rise in prices at a gradual pace. And that’s a good thing. We’re up about 5 1/2 percent in prices in New Castle County. Because of the shortage, we’re also seeing the sale-to-offer price rising. Buyers are more competitive with their offers, and we’re not seeing a lot of low-balling, which helps with that gradual growth that we want to see. However, this does not reflect the thought that anything will sell. Condition is still critical.
Delaware County also has a shortage of inventory. The average sale-to-offer is up 2 percent, which is still good, and its price change is up 5 percent as well. However, there are pockets of the market that are lagging behind the current recovery.
What are some hot areas right now?
North Wilmington is always a big draw. I think that’s about convenience—Philadelphia is 20 minutes away, and the Delaware Memorial and the Commodore Barry bridges are nearby. You have access to Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania—so there’s that versatility. And the real estate taxes are very low compared to those other areas.
Is it a good time for buyers to put their homes on the market?
It’s a great time to sell. Interest rates just went up a little, but it’s still a great time for buyers to take advantage of the market. I know in New Castle County, 30 percent of the buyers are looking between 100,000 and 200,000 and almost another 30 percent are looking between 200,000 and 300,000. If your home falls in those price ranges, they’re in high demand. Buyers are really motivated.
What advice do you have for sellers?
Condition and proper pricing strategy are two of the critical components of a successful move. I recommend a pre-listing inspection to all serious sellers. It gives them an accurate picture of probable issues that can either be addressed prior to marketing or disclosed to prospective buyers. It avoids unnecessary headaches and the process moves much smoother. Home warranties are also a huge benefit in this situation as well. All this shows the seller cares about the home, and is ready to move.
What advice do you have for buyers?
Everyone needs to get preapproved for a mortgage. I always say, “You don’t go the grocery store without your wallet.” And it’s not just making sure that you’re qualified or knowing how much you can afford—you need to be comfortable with the payments. I don’t want any of my clients to be house poor. You need to break down how much each monthly payment is going to be and figure out what you’re ok with.
What should buyers look for in a home?
You need to look at for me the livability of a home. In my experience, people just know when they walk in a home. You want that gut feeling. As much as it’s a mental purchase, it’s also an emotional one. People are tied to their homes. That’s where memories are made. You want that connection to the house. I’m also a big advocate for home warranties. No two people live in the home the same. It really protects the buyer. It’s nice to be able to enjoy your home in the first year without worrying about the small things.